Have you ever seen those Asian restaurants that serve sushi, Chinese and Thai food all from the same kitchen? Have you ever tried one? Has it been any good? Typically when a person or a company tries to be everything to everyone, they don’t do any one thing exceptionally. The same is true in the custom integration business.
For example, my company has changed to focus exclusively on AV and networking. All electrical, shading installations, and carpentry work is outsourced to experts. Does that cost us a little bit in profit? Yes, but it ensures that we are focused on one thing and we do it exceptionally well. We then take that one step further and focus on a client niche so that we can provide high-end, customized solutions that exceed our customer’s expectations every time, because that is what we focus on.
Maybe it’s simply the benefit of a stronger housing market, but I believe that our growth this year is a result of focusing our attention on one target niche.
I used to target celebrity and professional sports clients. This led to press exposure and great PR, giving us credibility and growing our business. However I just could not relate well to those clients. They lived in a world I just didn’t understand. While I am by no means exceptionally wealthy, I have, instead, chosen to focus our attention on clients that we deem “wealthy, discerning, professional individuals.” That means people who have are senior business executives or financial professionals that live in very nice apartments in Manhattan and likely have second homes in the Hamptons or in Connecticut. We install full automation systems and make their lives easier. The sale relies heavily on
1) My ability to talk the talk with these clients and let them know that I know their needs, wants, and lifestlyes; and
2) Exposing them to a fully operating system (see my blog from two weeks ago
While this target audience works well for me, you need to find your own niche that works for your business and your personal style. My colleague Mark from Home Theater Advisors went to Dartmouth for college and has an MBA from Duke. He also has two small children and lives in an NYC condo. For these reasons, he focuses his company’s efforts on people like him—well-educated professionals, typically with families. There is an immediate connection they can make based on shared experiences of education and raising children in Manhattan. This makes the relationship more personal and builds a level of trust. He uses alumni meetings and events; events at his kids’ school; youth sports; and college newsletters to get the word out about his company.
While Mark may be in a unique situation, find your common ground and use it to your advantage. Do you have school-age kids? Then make sure you are involved in school activities so other parents know what you do. Donate a fully programmed remote to the school auction. Help with AV needs at the school for events. Are you a sports nut? Talk up the bartenders at your local sports bars and get to the know the managers. You can cultivate commercial work with the bar and also get into some good conversations that others will engage in while at the bar. It could lead to some work. Help out with local leagues if they need any AV work done, even at a discount or pro-bono.
The key is to find something that you are passionate about that might help you connect on a more personal level with your customers and then figure out how you can manufacture situations where you can easily discuss your business. The better you know your customer, the better your solutions will be and the happier they will be. And what better way to know your customer than to sell to people like yourself, or at least target the same types of people over and over.
+Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.